Unclutterer’s 2014 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Gifts for kids

Each year Erin is kind enough to let me write the gift guide for kids. I have such a good time, and often have to whittle my ideas down to the best selections. That’s what I’ve done again this year. In the following post you’ll find great suggestions for little and big kids.

Younger tykes

The POWER A Skylanders SWAP Force Tackle Box. Skylanders is a game for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo 3DS that encourages kids to buy a vast collection of figurines, which become playable characters. Even a small collection can be unwieldily, and if you think stepping on a LEGO brick is bad, try putting your bare foot down on Drobot. This storage box holds up to 20 figures, is stackable, has a lit that latches shut and is transparent. Plus, Jr. can use it to carry his minions to a friend’s house. (It also works with Disney Infinity characters, if your kid is into that one.)

The LEGO Swoop Bag. I mentioned this last year, and I’ve brought it back for 2014 because LEGOS just won’t go away. Between the LEGO Movie, Star Wars tie-ins that are bolstered by a new TV series, those ever-present bricks will be popular again this season. The Swoop Bag holds a huge collection of LEGOs and spreads out during play time, and easily scoops and stores the lot when play is finished. A few other fun ways to keep LEGOS organized:

  1. The LEGO Storage Head offers a fun way to keep LEGOS organized, and gifts should be fun, right? I’d recommend this for smaller collections.
  2. The LEGO ZipBin 1000 Brick Storage Box and Playmat. I love it because it stores 1,000 bricks, comes with a playmat, and features a brick remover! This all-important tool will keep you from using your teeth to separate stubborn bricks. That thing is like gold, so keep it safe.
  3. The Brick Rack Wall Display for LEGO minifigs. As kids get older, they may want to display their favorite LEGOS. This interesting system mounts to the wall and lets kids slide minifigs in and out. The best part is they aren’t in there permanently, so if they want to take a few down to play with them, they can.

Melissa and Doug Trunki Terrance Rolling Kids Luggage. This beautiful little suit case is perfect for the younger child who travels — or doesn’t! For travelers, it’s carry-on sized and features wheels plus handles and a shoulder strap. At home, it’s a cute and sturdy (holds up to 75 lbs) storage container that you won’t mind looking at. It’s available in several colors and patterns, so you can find one that works for you.

The Hot Wheels Basic Car 50-Pack. Perhaps it’s my nostalgia talking, but Hot Wheels are awesome. This set contains 50 vehicles, each individually wrapped, with no duplicates. Plus, it all ships in a cute cardboard storage box. It’s a great way to create an instant Hot Wheels collection or add on to an existing one AND keep them stored nicely when not in use.

Older kids/teens

Gear Pockets. These wall-hanging units feature mesh pockets and straps for storing all sorts of items: sports equipment, hunting supplies, helmets, boots and more. Put one in the garage or your teenager’s room and they’ll have at-a-glance access to their most important gear.

Multi-Device Charging Station. This great-looking bamboo charging station can accommodate three phones/music players of various makes, an iPad, and a laptop computer. There are hidden hook-ups for everything, keeping them charged in a tidy, nice-looking package.

Finally, this one’s a little abstract, but I’d recommend an Evernote Premium subscription for any college students on your list. I’ve sung Evernote’s praises several times on Unclutterer. It really is my external brain. College is a time to run around like a chicken minus its academic head, and Evernote will help students keep everything they need together and accessible.

If you’re like me, you find time spent shopping for kids almost as much fun as watching them open their gifts. I hope there were a few items here that are prefect for the young ones on your list. Have a great holiday season, everybody!

Feel welcome to explore our past Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Unclutterer’s 2014 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Organizing gifts for the kitchen and bathroom

If someone on your gift list this year would appreciate a little organizing help, there are numerous ways to provide gifts to help in his or her pursuits. Seeing as organizing gifts are too many to count, we decided this year to narrow down suggestions to only the kitchen and bathroom. If these two rooms aren’t of concern to your recipient, they still may be able to provide inspiration for gifts applicable to other rooms.

The kitchen is probably the busiest room in the home. Some kitchens have limited counter space and some have limited cupboard space. The following are a few tools that may be of interest to chefs to help them keep the kitchen organized.

  • Free up kitchen counter space with a folding dish rack. The linked model allows dishes to dry quickly and funnels water directly to the sink. It comes apart for easy cleaning and it has a slim profile that makes it easy to store in a cupboard when not in use.
  • Kitchen scales are an essential tool for anyone who enjoys baking but most models take up lots of counter or cupboard space. The Joseph Joseph TriScale Compact Folding Digital Scale is an ideal space saver to that folds up and fits in a drawer. It has an easy to read display and measures in both Imperial and metric. I received one of these last year for Christmas and I love it!

  • I also love my Nest utensil set. It has the five tools that I use most often, all in a compact, self-supporting design. It takes up very little space on the small counter next to my stove and it adds a dash of colour to the kitchen.
  • Any chef with a small kitchen would enjoy receiving a colourful collapsible measuring cup and spoon set or a collapsible silicone colander that can also double as a food steamer. The 4-in-1 box grater by Joseph Joseph folds flat and fits easily in a drawer or cupboard. It comes with a protective cover for safety. It’s dishwasher safe, too.

The bathroom is a close second for the busiest-room-in-the-house designation. Many bathrooms have very little storage or counter space. The following are a few tools that can help keep the bathroom in order.

  • A stainless steel power lock suction basket is designed to keep your soap and shampoo organized in your shower, but it could also be used next to your kitchen sink to keep your dishwashing tools in order.
  • For bathrooms with very little drawer space, a rolling cart is useful for storing items. Plastic is recommended as it does not rust and it can be easily cleaned.
  • Keep cosmetics organized with an expandable organizer for the vanity. Alternatively, a drawer organizer could be used to corral cosmetics.
  • Keep hairstyling tools organized in this handy caddy. It can hang on a towel bar or on a cupboard door or it can be placed in a drawer. Styling tools can be stored on the counter with a hairstyle tool organizer. It also has a place to store hairspray, gel, and hair accessories.
  • For students who transport their toiletries from their dorm room to the bathroom, a new shower tote may be a useful gift.

Feel welcome to explore our past Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Introducing the 2014 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide

Starting Monday and going through the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we will be running our annual Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Each post will focus on uncluttered, useful, and/or organized gifts that you might want to consider giving to others this season.

The holidays are a time when we can easily feel overwhelmed with responsibilities, as well as by stuff. With our Guide, we hope to inspire you to think outside the traditional gift-giving process or to be more aware of how you proceed within its regular bounds.

The next seven weeks, however, aren’t only about gifts. You’ll likely be invited to parties and have special work or school obligations. You may be the host of this year’s Thanksgiving gathering. And you may find yourself packing up a suitcase or two or three and heading across the country to see far-flung friends and family.

So, how do you keep yourself from going mad?

  • Make a plan now. Create a to-do-list of everything that needs to be accomplished. Then, set specific deadlines for shopping and preparations or whatever it is you have to do in the next seven weeks. Mark these on your calendar with blocks of time to work on meeting your deadlines. If playing host for a holiday meal, consult a guide that lists day-by-day and hour-by-hour suggestions for getting food on the table.
  • Take a break. You don’t have to constantly be on the go until the New Year. When scheduling all the things you need to do on your calendar, be sure to include time for reflection and rejuvenation. You’re likely to go bonkers, otherwise. Also try not to be afraid of saying “no” if you feel that your schedule is becoming too much to reasonably handle.
  • Keep it simple. Whether it’s with your decorations, your gift giving, or any other task that could complicate this time, try your best to keep things simple. You don’t have to put out every snow man you own. You don’t have to serve every dish your grandmother did at Thanksgiving. You don’t have to give New Year’s guests four choices of champagne. Have a signature cocktail and make a pitcher of it instead of standing behind a bar all night making custom orders. Santa Claus can bring the kids a single, larger gift instead of 40 little ones. Don’t be overly complicated about things unless you have to.

Stay focused on enjoying time with family and friends and you should be fine this holiday season.

If you’re eager to get started planning your gift giving this season, feel welcome to check out our past Guides for ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

A Black Friday wrap up of Unclutterer’s 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide

In case you missed any of our posts along the way, the following is a complete listing of the gift-giving ideas included in Unclutterer’s 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide:

If you’re looking for even more inspiration, check out our previous Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guides:

From those of us at Unclutterer, we wish you a calm and clutter-free holiday season!

2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Gift ideas from professional organizers

This year we thought we would ask a few professional organizers from around the world what their favourite gifts were to give and/or receive.

Erin Rooney Doland of Unclutterer.com in the Washington, DC-area, suggested the Cubitec Shelving System.

Erin said, “We have had this shelving unit for almost a decade and it hasn’t aged a day. The color is consistent, even though it has sat next to large sliding glass doors the entire time. Not a single shelf sags. Most importantly, it can be configured to fit your space and it’s fun. We use it in our living room, but we’re giving a unit to our son for toy storage in his room. I truly love furniture and organizing products that stand the test of time and also look amazing.”

Geralin Thomas of Metropolitan Organizing, LLC in Cary, NC, is a fan of supplemental battery power for her smartphone. She would love to receive an Everpurse this holiday season. The Everpurse is a purse that charges your smartphone. Leave your purse on its charging mat all night and it will keep your smartphone charged all day. Geralin loves also the Purse Perfector purse organizer she received as a gift and keeps it in the centre console of her car to keep everything in its place.

Julie Bestry of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, recommended Grid-it by Cocoon to organize and maintain cables, chargers, ear buds, pens, small tools, flash drives, and just about anything that would otherwise be lost in the bottom of backpacks and purses. Julie would love to receive the Cocoon Backpack with its ability to hold a 17” laptop and its multi-pocketed organized interior and ergonomically designed shoulder harness.

For those who want to have their files accessible from anywhere, but don’t feel comfortable hosting them in the cloud. Brooks Duncan of DocumentSnap in Vancouver, Canada, recommended the Transporter Sync. It lets you turn your external hard drive into a secure, connected, cloud device that is in your control.

Some people have small homes and it can be hard to accommodate Christmas trees in the living room during the festive season and in storage spaces the rest of the year. If this is the case with your friends or family, Soraiya Kara of POSabilities Personal Organizing in Vancouver, Canada, suggested giving ornament display stands. These stands come in a variety of styles and a range of prices and allow people to display their beautiful, sentimental ornaments.

Nanette Duffy of Organized Instincts in Atlanta, GA, wants Cyber Clean as a gift! Nanette said, “The product is practical and effective, but the bright neon green slime feels like a toy! A slick consistency makes cleaning your tech gadgets just plain old fun. I have been told that recipients seek out dirty and gross gadgets like remotes, computer mice and tech devices just to keep playing with the neon green slime. Cyber Clean is not gender specific and can be used at home or work, so it’s a great office gift exchange gift idea. The small packet or bottle makes it an easy, low cost gift to ship. When you have used up Cyber Clean’s cleaning powers, the colour changes letting you how it’s time to toss it out. This mean no “gift clutter” to accumulate.”

Janet Barclay of Organized Assistant in Hamilton, Canada, suggested the book Time Management for Unmanageable People: The Guilt-Free Way to Organize, Energize, and Maximize Your Life by Anne McGee-Cooper as a gift for those creative types for whom time management may be a challenge. As a right-brained individual who has overcome traits of dyslexia, hyperactivity, and attention deficit disorder to become a successful author, lecturer, business consultant, creativity expert, and business owner, McGee-Cooper knows her subject matter well, and presents her information clearly and with a sense of humour.

Patience Oaktree organizing novels and books of short stories are fictional stories about the adventures of a professional organizer. Valentina Sgro of SGRO Consulting in Cleveland, OH, suggested these books as a gift because they don’t run the risk of implying, “Happy Holidays! You’re a mess!” And, organizing aside, they make entertaining reading for most anyone.

Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Consumables

Consumables can make fine clutter-avoiding gifts for almost any budget. As with any gift, you’ll need to consider your recipient — not everyone drinks alcohol, some people have food allergies, etc. But match the right consumable to the right person, and you’ve got a winner.

Food and beverage

When it comes to wine, I have a fondness for fine champagne, which always seems so festive — and tastes so good. Chocolates also can be lovely; Tcho makes a Tcho-a-day package of dark chocolates, with a 30-day and a 90-day option. (You could even split these packages up into a bunch of stocking stuffers for numerous people.)

For non-alcoholic beverages, there’s always a good coffee or a special tea. A cook might appreciate a nice olive oil; David Lebovitz recommends Arbequina. But really, the possibilities are endless: fancy salts, a special peanut butter from the Netherlands, heirloom beans, and so much more.


Know people who like growing their own food? Consider a seed bomb, or some specialty seeds.

Soaps, cosmetics and such

For people who like bar soap — and appreciate magnificent packaging — you might get the soaps from Leap Organics: eucalyptus, mint, and anise is one of their three options. Another interesting choice would be the soaps from Badger, sold by Soap Hope, which say: When you purchase any item from Soap Hope, we invest ALL profits — every single dollar — into programs that empower women to lift themselves from poverty.

All sorts of seemingly mundane products can be more fun than you might expect as a gift. Items like bacon bandages, Abraham Lincoln bandages, or Jane Austen bandages are fun for restocking a first-aid kit. You can get organic toothpaste from Denmark in a number of flavors, or cinnamon mint toothpaste from Italy. And you can even get interesting dental floss.

There are plenty of interesting lip balms, such as the Coast of Eden assortment: chai spice, lavender mint, blood orange, and peppermint. Or you could get a do-it-yourself lip balm kit.

Alisa Bonsignore just tweeted that she is “much too old to be this entertained by my color-changing ‘mood’ nail polish” — which I’d never heard of, until she mentioned it. Maybe you know someone who’d be entertained by color-changing nail polish, too. Or, you might prefer some more traditional nail polishes, such as those from Butter London, with their “complete lack of the chemical nasties.”

Art supplies for children

I’m always amazed at the wonderful products available in this category; just make sure whatever you purchase is safe for the child’s age. Consider edible veggie sidewalk chalk, made with organic ingredients. Or, consider Snazaroo face paint, the Faber-Castell Young Artist Finger Painting Gift Set, and Glob natural botanical paints. And, there’s a fun-looking set of eco-crayons and an eco-art pad.

Office supplies

For something different in sticky notes, take a look at Leaf-it. For example, you can purchase their maple leaf sticky notes. And how about some colorful staples: pink, blue, purple, or teal?

Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Gifts for helping kids be organized

Maybe it’s me, but I get as much enjoyment from buying and imagining my kids’ reactions to opening gifts as I get from witnessing the unwrapping itself. As a result, Erin assigned me the task for putting together the shopping guide for kids for this year. I’ve collected a number of gift ideas for kids of various ages and interest, from toddlers to teens. And, each of these gifts has a special organizing slant, of course.

  1. Foldie T-shirts. I am flat-out in love with these. The Foldie “educational” tee is very cute. The shirts feature adorable graphics and they have a secret. Specifically, they teach kids how to fold shirts in a very clever way. Flip it over and bring the sleeves together, and the image on the back becomes a whole new picture. Fold it again, bringing the bottom to the top, and a third image is created. It’s utterly delightful. I tried one out with my own kids and, not only did they love it, the lesson generalized to non-Foldie shirts. Perfect.
  2. The Swoop Bag. The fantastic swoop bag serves three purposes. First, it’s a play surface. When fully opened, this sturdy bag makes a great area for playing with LEGO bricks, wooden blocks, and so on. Second, it’s fantastic for storage. When playtime’s over, just zip! It’s closed. Use the built-in straps to close or hang it up. Finally, it’s super for transportation. My son has a mind-bending number of Skylanders figures which he brings to his buddy’s house. The Swoop Bag is a great way to transport them.
  3. Rainbow Loom. It’s a clever little device that lets kids make all sorts of bracelets with elastics. My kids sure love it, and that means I find tiny rubber bands all over the place. Keep them tidy with a multi-compartment container. It also helps kids more easily transport their “loom gear” to their friends’ houses.
  4. A can of chalkboard paint. Stay with me here. Last Christmas, we gave a pint of chalkboard paint to the kids, whose initial reaction was hesitant. A year later, they absolutely love it. My son is always changing the “art” on his wall, while my daughter has taken to using her wall as a calendar. She’ll note down what’s happening on a given day, like “ballet” or “play practice.” She draws goofy faces, too, but that’s the fun. Slap some on the wall, hand them a box of fresh, colorful chalk, and let them go wild without any paper mess cluttering up their spaces.
  5. Activity bags are great for older kids. Val Jacobs makes super dance bags, from multi-pocketed duffels to hanging solutions that can accommodate costumes, makeup, and more. CCM makes a very nice hockey bag that’s suitable for other sports, too. (While we’re on the subject, here’s how to keep odor out of sports equipment bags.)
  6. The chalkboard laptop. Seriously, how adorable is this? This handmade, wooden “laptop” features a chalkboard screen and keyboard, plus a slot for chalk where the trackpad is on mom and dad’s laptop. The whole thing folds up for easily for travel and storage, just like its computer counterpart.
  7. The crayon bandolier is adorable and handy. First of all, it’s super cute. And, secondly, it keeps crayons ready to go and not all over the table or floor.
  8. The Doodle Tablecloth. Since you’ve got the crayons out, break out the Doodle Tablecloth to complete the set. This lined tablecloth is machine washable and ships with a pack of eight washable markers. If you’re not willing to subject your entire tablecloth to Jr.’s artistic endeavors, consider the Doodle placemat set.

Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Utilitarian unitaskers as gifts

Here at Unclutterer, we make weekly jokes about unitaskers — items with only one purpose and very little utility tied to that purpose. However, there are useful unitaskers, single-purpose items with high utility, that can make great gifts for the right people. The following are ideas to take into consideration.

Fire extinguishers were previously featured on Unclutterer as a very useful unitasker. A multi-purpose fire extinguisher should be located in the kitchen to deal with cooking fires but other areas of the home should have a fire extinguisher, too. An extinguisher for fires involving flammable liquids such as gasoline should be stored in the garage. Cars, boats, recreational vehicles, and seasonal homes should also have fire extinguishers. This is a great gift for anyone who doesn’t already have fire extinguishers, has expired fire extinguishers, or anyone needing an extra fire extinguisher for home, car, or garage.

Like the fire extinguisher, a fire ladder is a useful unitasker for those who live in multi-level housing. There are different types of fire escape ladders, and this short video can help you choose the right one for the people on your gift list. This is a great gift for anyone who lives in a house with bedrooms on upper levels or living in an apartment above ground floor.

Two-thirds of residential fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms. Many of us have removed the batteries from smoke detectors because of false alarms due to burnt toast or that annoying “beep-beep” at 3am that indicates the detector’s batteries are dead. The Nest Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector solves these problems. It sends you a friendly, polite alert so that you can take action to prevent a false alarm. It also sends a message to your smart phone if the batteries are low so you can replace the dying ones. This is a great gift for anyone who who doesn’t already have, or have enough, smoke detectors or those who pull the batteries out of the smoke detector on a regular basis.

Have you ever left for vacation and realized that you forgot to turn the heat down in your home? The Nest Learning Thermostat will automatically turn your heat down when you’re away and it can be controlled from anywhere by your smartphone. You can turn your heat up as soon as your plane lands and come home to a cozy, warm house. This would be an ideal gift for home owners who are frequent travellers, busy families, or anyone looking to save money on his or her home heating bill.

There are several different types of weather stations available but the netatmo weather station connects to your home and allows you to monitor indoor and outdoor conditions with your smartphone from anywhere there is an internet connection. Netatmo monitors your indoor air quality, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels and lets you know if you should increase your ventilation. This is a great gift for anyone who lives in a remote area, far from standard weather stations, or those who want more information that an average thermometer can provide and want that information on their smartphone.

A USB charger is technically a unitasker because it only does one thing — charges USB devices. The Elago Tripshell USB World Travel Adaptor is a multi-tasker. It allows you to charge two USB devices and functions as an outlet extender so you can charge your laptop at the same time. And (this is the best part) it works in over 150 countries. If you know someone who travels, this would be a great gift. Your friend can use this device at home and carry it with her on her travels. She will no longer have to carry travel adaptors for every gadget she needs to charge.

Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Our ultimate pick for an extravagant organized gift

Since 2007, we have been recommending an extravagant organized gift as part of our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. The first year, our ultimate pick was the Fujitsu ScanSnap. In 2008, we recommended the Kindle. The following year, we suggested my book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week. In 2010, it was the Fellowes Intellishred Shredder (now called the Powershred). For 2011, our ultimate generosity idea was for hiring a professional organizer. Then, in 2012, it was a closet makeover with Rubbermaid’s Configurations system.

All of these suggestions continue to make terrific gift ideas. In fact, we heavily debated if we should have the Fujitsu ScanSnap be our selection again for 2013. However, we decided we should pick something we hadn’t done before.

For 2013, we have selected a subscription to Unclutterer’s Quarterly shipments as our ultimate extravagance.

It is difficult to put into words the excitement that we feel each time we put together one of these mailings. We know that with each package we are having fun and helping people to be more organized in their homes.

Quarterly is a subscription service that sends out curated packages four times a year, as its name implies. The Unclutterer staff selects the items that go into all of the Unclutterer mailings. We include straightforward directions on how to use/install/manipulate the items. Our assumption is that for every item we send, you will actually be able to subtract one or more things from your homes and offices. Or, the items will help you discover a significantly improved level of organization in your life.

Our previous mailings, which you can now give as gifts after the fact, contained solutions for organizing a mess of cables and getting your filing cabinet in order.

What we love about these shipments are that if you already have the specific area of your home organized, the items make great gifts to give others to help them on their organizing journey. And, the items we pick for our Quarterly mailings are very positively reviewed, tested, and tried and true solutions to disorganization problems.

Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Tech for organization

Do you have a tech-friendly organization devotee on your holiday shopping list? Then you are in luck because this is among the easiest, most fun groups to shop for. A tech geek — for lack of a better term — is always willing to try out a new gadget, system, or tool, just in case it’s an improvement over what she/he is already using. As a tech geek, I’m speaking from experience.

The following are several gift ideas that are likely to make the tech geek in your life happy:

  1. The Doxie Flip Scanner. The newest addition to the Doxie family of scanners (released just a couple of weeks ago), is a delightful little device. This portable (about 6.5 x 10 x 1 inches and 1 lb 7.3 oz.), battery-powered, flatbed scanner is perfect for scanning photos, books, sketches, manuals and so much more. It easily fits into almost any bag and saves scans to an SD card for easy transfer. Here’s a cool tip: If you have a wireless-capable Eye-Fi card, skip the middle man and scan directly to your computer over Wi-Fi.
  2. New Trent Travelpak. The Travelpak is a portable recharging device that can supply extra juice to anything that accepts a charge via USB. That means iPhones, iPods, iPads, tablets, cameras and smartphones of all kinds. It stores enough power to keep most smartphones going for a days under normal use. And, it’s barely bigger than a phone, so it fits into a bag or pocket easily. Useful and portable? That’s a winning combo to me.
  3. BookBook Travel Journal. This one is for the iPad-wielding traveler. The BookBook Travel Journal from Twelve South is a tidy, organized, and absolutely fantastic-looking carrying case for an iPad and myriad of accessories. You can store the tablet plus a charger (like the awesome PlugBug), set of headphones, keyboard case, stylus, notebook, and pen. Twelve South makes fantastic products (check out similar carriers for the iPhone, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air) and the Travel Journal is no exception. Tidy, attractive, and best of all, useful.
  4. CoverBot Dual USB High Output Car Charger. Here’s another wonderfully unobtrusive device that will keep all your favorite tech geek’s devices charged. The CoverBot Duo is a car charger with two USB-ready ports. Each is fully powered, so you can get two devices up and running at the same pace. As with the New Trent Travelpak, the CoverBot Duo works with any device that will accept a charge via USB.
  5. Philips HF3500/60 Wake-Up Light. Now this is just cool. The Wake-Up Light wakes you up by growing gradually brighter over a 30-minute period. This process, according to Phillips, stimulates your body to wake up naturally, as opposed to the jarring audio alert of most alarm clocks. Phillips sent us one to review and we’re glad they did. Additionally, once fully illuminated, it easily lights up a bedroom. Replace that lamp and save some space on your nightstand, too.
  6. BLaNKcraft Cable Manager. With two iPhones and an iPod in the house, I spend way too much time plugging, unplugging, replacing, or searching for cables. It’s worse when we’re traveling, as one pocket of my bag ends up holding a rat’s nest of white cable. The BLaNKcraft Cable Manager can rescue your tech geek from cable chaos. This handmade, leather strap is so simple and so clever that I just love it. Bind your cables with the snap, tuck it into a bag, pocket, or drawer and you’re good to go. As an alternative, the Cord Taco is another great choice.
  7. Tile. This clever little fob attaches to your valuables (up to 10) and lets you track their location with an iOS app. Lose the keys? Misplace a wallet? Don’t know where the kids’ backpacks have gone? You’re a tap away from solving the mystery.
  8. Automatic. This is among my top gadgets of the year. The Automatic is a little device that plugs into your car’s data port (check if your car is supported here) and shares a host of useful information. For example, if you car’s “Check Engine” light comes on, the Automatic will tell you what’s wrong via the companion smartphone app (iOS and Android). If it detects an accident has occurred, it notifies local authorities. It remembers where you parked and even helps you drive in a more economical manner. It even supports multiple drivers.
  9. The Quirky Plug Hub. Finally, here’s another great way to rid yourself of a rat’s nest of cables. Put a power strip inside and use the three holes in the top to thread six plugs through neatly. You don’t have to look at the ugly plug unit once it’s tucked inside. Take things a step further and add some labels to those plugs so you’ll know what’s going where.

Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experiences

Today begins our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Between now and November 26, we will share numerous articles on uncluttered giving that can be used this season. Most of these ideas also will apply to gift giving throughout the year, irrespective of the occasion.

Giving an experience gift ensures there’s nothing for the recipient to unclutter, and it’s a great kind of gift to give to someone who really doesn’t need or want any more stuff. I have a friend who said one of the best gifts she ever got was an annual membership to a local museum.

Last year, Erin provided suggestions for many types of experience gifts — and here are some more ideas. My examples will be U.S.-based, but similar items can probably be found in many other parts of the world.

City tours

Here are a few of the tours available in San Francisco; your area may well have equally interesting options.

  • Food-related tours: Gourmet Walks, San Francisco Food Tours, Foodie Adventures
  • Neighborhood-related tours: All About Chinatown, Chinatown Alleyway Tours
  • Architecture-related tours: San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour, Victorian Home Walk
  • Novelty vehicle tours: Fire Engine Tours — I know a little boy who would have loved this!
  • Golf

    If you’ve got a golfer on your gift list, you might choose a gift card good at over 4,000 golf courses nationwide.


    Here’s just one possibility: a zip line experience. You can find these in many places; two examples are Zipline New York and Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge, Georgia.

    Spa experiences: massages, facials, pedicures, etc.

    Treat someone to some pampering and relaxation! Almost any business offering these services will have a gift certificate available, and sometimes you can buy them online.

    Here are just a few examples: Massage LA (which serves Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon); Queen Jane Day Spa (which serves New York City); and Nirvana Holistic Spa (which serves Washington D.C. and Portland, Oregon).

    Consultations with specialists

    If you know the recipient would appreciate such a consultation, it could be a great gift. Give someone a consultation with an image consultant, a garden coach, etc.

    Combination gifts: books plus experiences

    This can work well for those who don’t want to give a purely intangible gift. Here are a few examples to get you thinking.

  • Give a gift certificate for a Segway tour, along with the book Reinventing the Wheel: A Story of Genius, Innovation, and Grand Ambition.
  • Give the book Pug Hill, where the protagonist is an art restorer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — along with a membership to that museum.
  • Give a child (or an adult) a membership to your local zoo, along with a related book. There are many choices, from the board book Touch and Feel Zoo to the intriguing-sounding The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes: And Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and their Patients.
  • Give the gift of a stock car ride along, and bundle it with the book The Physics of NASCAR: How to Make Steel + Gas + Rubber = Speed
  • Want more gift-giving ideas? Explore Unclutterer’s full 2013 Holiday Gift Giving Guide.

    Uncluttered Valentine’s Day gift ideas

    We’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day in two days. Haven’t bought your loved ones anything yet? Don’t panic. OK, maybe a little panic. You’ve got 48 hours! The following are some nice gift ideas that will express your feelings and keep you out of the dog house, all without creating a pile of clutter that must be dealt with at some point:

    1. Create an unexpected playlist. Many Gen-X’ers out there remember the labor-intensive, excruciating process of creating a mix tape for a loved one. The careful selection of exactly the right songs, placed in precisely the proper order to create a crescendo of meaning and feeling. Only the right mix of sentiment, fun, humor, and truth would do. And it all had to fit perfectly on a 60-minute cassette. The harder you worked, the more your recipient meant to you.

      Today, the process is less labor intensive (raise your hand if you remember holding a tape recorder up to the radio to capture a song), but just as meaningful. If your loved one has an Mp3 player like an iPod, sneak into his or her iTunes account and create a playlist of songs that speak to your relationship. Give it a fun name and sync the results to her device. Her commute to work, etc. just got that much more pleasant.

    2. Get the car detailed. My wife did this for me last year and I was elated. I keep my car tidy but I can’t get it anywhere near as nice-looking as a well-equipped professional can. Some detailers will even travel to you for on-site cleaning. While the kids did eventually track sand and Goldfish crackers into the car again, it was a nice few weeks before they did and extremely appreciated.
    3. Gather favorite photos. I admit that I still like looking at paper photos more than their digital counterparts. Holding a picture in my hand is nicer than sitting in front of a screen or even holding a tablet or a smartphone. That might be a function of my age, but I suspect some of you feel that, too. It’s also nice to browse a well-ordered album, and there are several companies that produce great-looking photo books. Shutterfly does a great job, as does Apple, if you use its iPhoto software. I’ve ordered several photo books from Apple and they look great.
    4. Get a landscaping consultation. I love “fiddling in the yard” as I call it but I’ll admit that I don’t really know what I’m doing. Last summer, I spent about an hour talking with some folks at a local nursery and learned so much. Most landscaping companies offer free consultations, so consider that if your better half enjoys gardening or landscaping. Also, check with local colleges, universities, or adult education organizations for classes in landscaping or really anything that will encourage an interest or hobby.
    5. Re-live a first date. In 1986, I took my very first date to see Jumpin’ Jack Flash. I’m not eager to see that movie again, but I suspect it’d bring back some pleasant memories if I did. It’d be great fun to take your significant other back to the restaurant, theatre, hot dog stand (etc.) that marked the beginning of your relationship.
    6. Digitize home movies. This one will take some planning, but it’ll be worth it. Many people have boxes of 8mm movies sitting around or old VHS tapes. The simplest method of digitizing them is to set up the projector (many rental stores will have one if you don’t) and a digital camera. Roll the film, record with your digital camera and then import it into your computer.

      When recording, keep these tips in mind. Make sure the room is as dark as possible. Position your digital camera on a tripod and keep it as close to the reel-to-reel projector as possible, so that the angle is nearly identical. Zoom into the projected image as closely as possible. Finally, manually set the camera’s focus, as the auto focus could have trouble in this scenario.

    Happy (early) Valentine’s Day!